Jessica Cejnar / Monday, June 14, 2021 @ 5:26 p.m.

Rehwaldt Clarifies COVID Masking Guidelines Post-Tier System

As things begin to reopen, Del Norte County's public health officer urges folks to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Illustration by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash.

Except for a few specific situations, those vaccinated against COVID-19 can go maskless once the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy goes away Tuesday, according to Del Norte County's Public Health Officer.

But masking requirements will continue for those who remain unvaccinated, Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt said in a public service announcement Monday. And private business owners will have to decide whether and how to determine who is vaccinated and who isn't, Rehwaldt said.

In Del Norte County, there were zero new COVID-19 cases reported to the Public Health Branch on Monday. There are currently 13 active cases in Del Norte.

From Rehwaldt's PSA:

We thought it would be good to clarify a few things about the Tier system going away, before it actually happens.

The main thing that most people will be aware of is that the restrictions about capacity within a business location and indoor distancing rules can be set aside. The masking rules will remain in a modified way and will be about the same as the CDC standards, the heart of it is as follows;

Masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals, except in the following settings where masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

● On public transit[1] (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation)

● Indoors in K-12 schools[2], childcare[3] and other youth settings.

○ Note: This may change as updated K-12 schools guidance is forthcoming, pending updates for K-12 operational guidance from the CDC. ● Healthcare settings[4] (including long term care facilities[5])

● State and local correctional facilities and detention centers[6]

● Homeless shelters[7], emergency shelters[8] and cooling centers[9]

Additionally, masks are required** for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).

For additional information, individuals should refer to CDC Recommendations for Safer Activities and also see CDPH Masking Guidance Frequently Asked Questions.

**In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts may choose to:

● Provide information to all patrons, guests and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.

● Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.

● Require all patrons to wear masks.

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

For private businesses, the key part of this is found in this last section, where the options for businesses are laid out to decide how to tackle the issue of who is vaccinated and who is not, and what course they will take in their establishments. It would seem to be the case that most places will opt for the first choice, to post information at the door, and allow customers to “self-attest” as to whether they need a mask or not. Some places might choose the third option, especially if they have employees who for some reason, cannot get vaccinated. The second one seems a bit too difficult to actually implement.

The other key element is the places where universal masking is still expected and required, especially the part about indoor settings for youth activities. The whole list of exceptions is still fairly long, but the most important part is the very last line, preventing people from wearing a mask who feel that they still need to is not going to be tolerated. There are plenty of people who may continue to wear masks for a long time to come, especially in the upcoming flu season and there is no need to stigmatize them, or ostracize them in any way.

In addition, the rules for employees have not yet changed. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) still has to weigh in on what should be the new standards in most work settings. So, for the time being, a lot of people are still going to need to have masks with them in the workplace.

Most of the emergency proclamation that the Tier system was set up under is also being lifted, and if things go well there will be more to come. But the hardest part of all these, the restrictions on businesses, are largely going away and that will be a good thing. Travel recommendations are going to be tied to the CDC guidance so if you are planning a trip, check out the CDC standards.

The other topic today is the recurring problem of tests that are positive among people who have been vaccinated. We want to clarify for everyone; if you have been vaccinated, you do not need to do anything after exposure to a confirmed COVID case, UNLESS you start having symptoms. You do not need to even quarantine, if you are fully vaccinated. We are seeing quite a few people going in and getting tested even though they do not have symptoms, because they were in contact with a new case. This is not necessary; the only time a fully vaccinated person should quarantine for COVID or be tested for COVID is if they start having symptoms of COVID. Since about a third of our adult population is now vaccinated, this is important for people to understand.

All the more reason to get vaccinated! You won’t have to quarantine, and nearly always, you won’t have to test after a contact to a case. Plus, it helps our county get to “herd immunity”. Our current best estimate is that between 15 and 20% of the population is previously infected and recovered from COVID. Adding those numbers means at best, we are at 45-50% “immune”. This is not good enough to protect those who have not been vaccinated, and those who cannot get vaccinated or cannot depend on a vaccine to protect them (immune suppressed people, for example). We still have a ways to go, help us ALL get there!



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